Face the customer, not the CEO

don_sull2.jpgWe’re producing a live, interactive event on Feb 26th with Jonas Ridderstråle and I can’t wait. Yesterday I peeked at his slide deck and he’s got this killer quote: “Hierarchy is an organization with its face to the CEO and its ass to the customer.” Some attribute this to Jonas Ridderstråle and Kjell Nordström’s book, Funky Business. I’ve also seen this attributed to Jack Welch. In any event, its an important message and a pretty consistent one throughout the people we interview, read and pay attention to. Most recently I posted on Lynda Gratton’s research demonstrating that one of the key criteria of igniting a “Hot Spot” – an innovative and engaging collaborative environment within an organization – is lack of heirarchy. People need a sense of trust and openness to express their best ideas. This can only happen in an environment where people interact as peers.

Don Sull has a similar message: Leaders in organizations have a responsibility and obligation to work harder than they often think to foster an environment of open and creative thinking. Often suggestions from executives become orders when they were really intended as suggestions. So as a leader in the organization you need to work extra hard to allow all players to contribute openly.